DFE wants to build three-storey block on car park
A grammar school mired in recent controversy now faces having its historic main building demolished – or could miss out on a multi-million pound funding pot.
Pursestring holders at the Department for Education (DFE) want to pull down the “magnificent” art deco-style block at Simon Langton Girls’ and build a new three-storey school on a neighbouring car park.
But school bosses want the main building refurbished instead, fearing the new-build will be much smaller and “compromise the quality of education” at the school.
Turning down the proposal, however, could see the Langton kicked out of the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP), missing out on government money it needs to refurbish the rundown site.
It is understood Kent County Council is backing the DFE plan as it would avoid having to find the funds itself to carry out the work.
The saga is the latest in a tumultuous 18 months for the school, which saw a bid to convert to an academy scrapped earlier this year and former head teacher Jane Robinson resign amid the fallout and complaints about her conduct.
Executive head teacher Matthew Baxter, who took over from Mrs Robinson, says the school will fight to retain its main block.
He said: “It’s a magnificent example of 1950s modernist architecture; handsome buildings, well laid-out, well-lit and thoughtfully landscaped.
“A teacher described the school as a fine example of post-war optimism and I agree entirely with her.
“The building is more than just an architectural statement. In over 30 years in the teaching profession I have not seen a school with buildings which are so clearly fit-for-purpose.
“The layout and size of classrooms are such that the students are educated in spacious, welllit rooms with ample space for movement and a variety of learning activities. It is disappointing to observe a school in such poor repair and it seems essential repairs have been neglected in the expectation of a ‘new school’ being built.”
The school wants to use the DFE money to refurbish the original building, which was heralded in the architectural world when it was built after the Second World War. Now it is in need of repair, with leaking roofs, crumbling walls and buckled windows which fail to keep the heat in during winter.
A survey commissioned by the school put the cost of the work in the region of £6m to £8m, with £2m more needed to
Simon Langton Girls’ School governors want to preserve and refurbish, rather than demolish, school buildings